Jan Brueghel the Elder
Village Street with Dancing Peasants
Oil on copper. 11 x 16 cm.
Signed and dated lower left: 1609. BRVEGHEL.
In his 2008 catalogue raisonné of the works of Jan Brueghel, Klaus Ertz described the present work as a “treasure on copper”.
The work is a masterpiece of Jan Brueghel's unique vanishing point perspective. The village street stretches out into the centre of the composition, uninterrupted by side streets. The figures diminish in size the further we look along the street, and the vanishing point is defined by the houses and village motifs to the left and right of the path. The use of gaps between the houses leaves room for vegetation and single figures which create a greater appearance of depth. In this work, Jan Brueghel has created a realistic image of a 17th century Flemish village.
The special magic of this well-preserved panel derives from the fineness with which the artist has captured every detail. Like in a picture book, the viewer discovers something new every time they look, like the rooster hiding under the horse cart, or the child running after his father with open arms as he carries two heavy clay jugs. Swallows, doves, ducks, and chickens flock together in groups throughout the image, and if we look out into the greyish green distance of the picture, we see tiny piglets foraging for scraps. However, the central focus of the work is on the colourfully dressed peasants dancing, talking, and going about their work in the foreground.
Alongside an exceptional provenance reaching back to 1748, this small painted gem is also preserved in exceptional quality.
In the Kürfürstliche Galerie in Munich before 1748. - In the kürfürstliche Sammlung at Schleißheim palace as of 1748. - In the Alte Pinakothek Munich as of 1911. - Swiss private collection. - Acquired by the present owners from Koester Gallery in Zurich in 1987. - Subsequently in West German private ownership.
Cf. Ertz, Klaus: Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568-1625), Die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Cologne, 1979, p. 62, illus. 32, p. 590-591, no. 197. - Cf. Ertz, Klaus & Nitze-Ertz, Christa: Jan Brueghel der Ältere, Die Gemälde, vol. 1, p. 354, no. 172, p. 356, illus. 172.